Category Archives: Saints

Feasting Bede: An Exercise in Collect Revision

The feast of Saint Bede fell over Memorial Day weekend this year. I didn’t post on it this year on its proper date but shall do so now.

In praying his collect this year, I was struck by its limitations. Here’s the text:

Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still
a child, to devote his life to your service in the disciplines
of religion and scholarship: Grant that as he labored in the
Spirit to bring the riches of your truth to his generation,
so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you
known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

It’s not so bad as far as current sanctoral collects go. It’s singable. It points towards his virtues and isn’t overburdened with detail. And yet, it could be better.

The regnant model currently is that of the “biographical collect.” This is a proper prayer that incorporates elements of a person’s life and biography. In the Episcopal Church, the biographical collect was attempted and rejected as a strategy in the original deliberations leading up to the first batch of sanctoral collects published in 1958’s Prayer Book Studies XII.  The main reason for the rejection was because “Too many of these Collects gave the effect of being overly contrived and erudite” compounded by the appearance of “subtle allusions” not edifying to the whole worshiping community (PBS XII, 9). However, in 1980, in contrast to these earlier findings, a great majority of the sanctoral collects were rewritten to be biographical. In recent years, particularly in Holy Women Holy Men, the biographical collect has achieved a position of dominance as the genre of choice for sanctoral collects.

I have a fundamental theological problem with the biographical collect. I’m a medievalist: everyone knows this. As a medievalist, my perspective on the saints—who they and and who they are for us—has been heavily influenced by medieval models and perspectives while still retaining a Reformation perspective. Saints are neither demi-gods nor cool people who were also Christian. Rather, the saints are remarkable individuals who have been singled out by their own communities and those after them because they represented the ideal of Christian maturity. If, as Irenaeus has said, “the glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists of beholding God,” then these individuals are example of those who, in the act of beholding God, entered most fully into their own God-imaged humanity. Yes, many of them lived remarkable lives, did remarkable things, and have interesting biographies. But what we celebrate in them is our ability to see in their lives the universal virtues of Christ that they put on by virtue of their Baptism. It’s easy to get lost in biography. What we need to celebrate are the virtues and the charisms which they shared with Christ, which they grew into by virtue of Baptism, and which are available to us also by way of our own Baptisms. Thus, the biographical collect tends to err on the side of accenting their particularity rather than connecting to their universality and the Christ from whom it flows.

The second main issue I have with the biographical collect is its tendency to stop being a collect and to begin being a mini-sermon or secondary biography. A collect is a prayer; it is first and foremost speech to God. Only secondarily is it speech to the gathered assembly. The biographical collect tends to get this reversed, and attempts to edify more than it prays and praises. Consider again the genre of the collect. I’ve written about it here with a two-pronged simile: a collect is simultaneously like a sonnet and like a haiku. And I continue to come back to the words of Percy Dearmer:

Unity is the essential characteristic of the collect. To be good, it must have colour, rhythm, finality, a certain conciseness as well as vigour of thought; but it must be a unified petition, or it becomes something else than a collect. We might indeed say that it must be one complete sentence, an epigram softened by feeling; it must be compact, expressing one thought, and enriching that thought so delicately that a word misplaced may destroy its whole beauty.

Holding these things in mind, let’s review again the appointed collect for Bede…

Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still
a child, to devote his life to your service in the disciplines
of religion and scholarship: Grant that as he labored in the
Spirit to bring the riches of your truth to his generation,
so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you
known in all the world; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First off, this is a two-sentence prayer, not a collect. Standing in for an actual Invocation+Relative Clause describing God we have an Invocation+biographical note. This is one complete thought: “Heavenly Father, you called your servant Bede, while still a child, to devote his life to your service in the disciplines of religion and scholarship.” While it begins with God (verbally, at least), it says very little about who God is and says far more about who Bede was.  But it does so to talk about his job. (Again, the professionalization of sanctity, something I’ve railed about before and which I’ll spare you at the present…) Now—how does this first sentence relate thematically and conceptually to the second sentence? The second sentence (“Grant that as he labored in the Spirit to bring the riches of your truth to his generation, so we, in our various vocations, may strive to make you known in all the world”) identifies the effect of Bede’s service as bringing out the riches of God’s truth, and then requests—on the strength of that—that we be good evangelists.

I guess I can follow the logic—but is it good logic? Is it strong logic? Is this the best we can say about Bede and what we see in him and what we see of Christ through him? I certainly hope not…

Well, what are some other options, then? Here’s the version in the People’s Anglican Missal and the Anglican Breviary that substantially translates the Latin of the pre-1962 Roman Missal:

O God who hast enlightened thy Church with the wondrous learning of blessed Bede thy Confessor and Doctor: mercifully grant to us thy servants; that we, being in all things enlightened by his wisdom, may at all times feel the effectual succor of his righteousness. Through…

We do, in fact, have a collect here! We have a true Invocation+Relative Clause that says something about who God is—he is the enlightener of the Church and Bede is an example of vehicles he has used for this purpose. We at least see something of why we are revering Bede: his wisdom. And yet, this collect, too makes me feel a little edgy. I see Bede—I don’t see Christ…  This falls too close (and perhaps even over) the “saint as demi-god” line. Whose is the “effectual succor of righteousness”: Bede or Christ?

Now, here’s a collect for Bede that appears in PBS XII when he was first introduced into the Episcopal Calendar:

Almighty God, who hast enriched thy Church with the singular learning and holiness of thy servant Bede: Grant us to hold fast the true doctrine of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, and to fashion our lives according to the same, to the glory of thy great Name and the benefit of thy holy Church; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

So—a true collect that starts out in a very similar fashion to the Roman version, thanking God for enlightening the Church by virtue of Bede his instrument. Too, we see Jesus and ask to pattern our lives off his and to both glorify his name and benefit the Church. The collect doesn’t explicitly say that this is what Bede did, but we should certainly imply it.

I like this collect. It does what it’s supposed to do and it falls quite neatly between our two boundary lines. It is a bit general, though. This is actually a common collect for teachers and theologians; in PBS XII, Bede shares this same collect with Thomas Aquinas, John of Damascus, Ephrem, Jeremy Taylor, and Samuel I. J. Schereschewsky! You can see how it will work admirably for all of them. Can we get more particular and still hold to our principles?

How about this:

Almighty God, who hast enriched thy Church with the learning and holiness of thy servant Bede: Grant us to find in Scripture and disciplined prayer the image of thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and to fashion our lives according to the same, to the glory of thy great Name and the benefit of thy holy Church; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Learning and holiness capture well the virtues of Bede. I would characterize them as wisdom, knowledge, piety, and discipline myself. Holiness and piety are fairly synonymous, holiness lacking the whiff of sanctimoniousness that often accompanies the contemporary use of “piety.” I deleted “singular” as I don’t feel it adds. Rather, it detracts from our theology of sanctity! We don’t celebrate the saints because they are singular or unique; we celebrate them because they witness to our common gifts in Christ. Bede wrote his own epitaph in the closing chapters of the Ecclesiastical History thus: “I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst the observance of regular discipline, and the daily care of singing in the church, I always took delight in learning, teaching, and writing.” In making the common particular to him, then, I modified the petition relating to Christ. The original phrase “hold fast the true doctrine” is certainly correct as Bede was quite orthodox. However, bringing in the Scriptures and the singing of the Offices honors Bede’s own self-description better and enables us to capture his virtue of discipline.

Is this singable? I think so. It does have a number of clauses, but no more so than some of our other classic collects.

Now, I had made a suggestion earlier on in the process that we create collects that could sustain the optional phrase “[and in union with her prayers]” where grammatically appropriate in order to capture a true baptismal ecclesiology. This phrase would recognize the unity of our Baptismal community in Christ that physical death cannot sever, and acknowledge the presence of the saints within our present worshiping community. (And be entirely optional, noting that some have a more limited understanding of Baptism…) Looking at this new collect, though—there’s not a good way to fit the phrase in. I could see it going here: “and [in union with his prayers] to fashion our lives according to the same” except that we open a can of worms regarding antecedents. The natural antecedent of “his” would be Christ and if we substitute “Bede” for the pronoun it becomes clunky and interferes with “the same” at the end of the line. Thus, despite my desire for a recognition of our eschatological community with Bede and the rest of the saints, I think this collect is better off without the added phrase.

Decision on Calendar Issues

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music met yesterday afternoon. One of the top topics was the future of commemorations and the state of the Episcopal sanctoral calendar. I had pulled together the work of the subcommittee into a document which was further modified by committee and which was subsequently posted to the SCLM blog where we asked for feedback. Based on the feedback and discussion in the SCLM, we will be moving forward with a reconfiguration of HWHM tentatively retitled “A Great Cloud of Witness” (likely with a clear and descriptive functional title appended to the Scriptural phrase…).

Here are the key features of the recommendations:

  • We clarify that the sanctoral calendar of the Episcopal Church consists of those days celebrated by all—the Principal Feasts and Holy Days of the Book of Common Prayer—and that the calendar in the prayer book reflect this.
  • We clarify that all other days are—as they have always been—optional. They can be celebrated or not at the discretion of the presider or parish.
  • We move away from a canonization model. Instead, the resource follows a “family history” model and identifies people who have been significant and important for the church being the church in the 21st century.
  • The recognition of sanctity of any of the people either on or off the list is a local decision.
  • The central ecclesial act of recognizing a saint is eucharistic celebration. In order to clarify that the list of names and the resource is not a sanctoral calendar, entries will contain a collect for devotional purposes but not full eucharistic propers. However, suggestions for appropriate propers will be provided should a local community choose to honor a given person or group as a saint or saints.
  • Speaking of collects, the prayers currently contained in HWHM will be overhauled. We agreed that the goal is for each commemoration to have an actual collect that is appropriate for worship (not a supplementary mini-bio as one person said in the meeting…). However, given the scope of work, some entries may share appropriate Common collects if unique rewrites cannot be completed for all.
  • The bios will also be redone to remove errors and to highlight Christian discipleship.
  • Because this is not a sanctoral calendar there will be a clause in the criteria allowing for extremely occasional inclusion of non-Christian people with the clear understanding that the bio needs to be upfront about the fact that this is an exception and be equally clear on how the person’s life, witness, work, whatever directly connects to the church’s understanding of Christian discipleship. For example, all of the Dorchester Chaplains will be included—even Rabbi Goode—because the a significant part of the witness of this group is their ecumenical nature. To leave out Rabbi Goode would undercut an important aspect of the commemoration. Is anyone suggesting that Rabbi Goode is a Christian, “anonymous” or otherwise? No. Is his inclusion here indicating that the Episcopal Church now thinks of him as a saint? No. Instead, it recognizes that he was an integral part of a heroic gesture of compassion and ecumenical cooperation that local congregations are free to observe or not at their discretion.
  • The Weekday Temporal material and the Commons for Various Occasions will be collected together and will receive greater emphasis as equally valid alternatives on non-festal days.

There are other things that haven’t been fully decided that still remain to be hashed out. Too, none of this is official until General Convention renders a decision on it. GC may decide to scrap the whole thing and go back to HWHM. However, this represents what we’re working to pull together and put before convention.

As regular readers know, I don’t consider this a perfect solution. There are a number of things I would do differently if it were up to me, but it’s not—this is part of a church-wide process that must satisfy a wide range of theological and political positions. However, it is a workable solution, and addresses many of the flaws identified in HWHM. Whether we’ve just created new flaws, only time will tell…

Calendar Subcommittee Recommendations Up for Comment

The Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) is now making public an interim update on the Calendar. The proposal is located here. It recommends splitting the current material into two parts (whether physically located in two volumes or not—that’s still under discussion): “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” which is cast as a “family history” rather than a sanctoral calendar and “Weekday Eucharist Book” (which needs a better name) for collecting the material for weekday Eucharistic celebrations into meaningful groups.

This is the result of much consultation, much thought, and several contentious meetings. It’s not perfect, it still has some unknowns, and it has some weaknesses, but overall I think it’s a stronger way forward than Holy Women, Holy Men.  At this point, we’re essentially putting it up for public vote. While adding nuance might be nice, chances are this is going to be a up or down decision—HWHM or GCW—based on the feedback left on the blog.

I’m working on a post to provide some of the context for some of the choices that might seem odd. I thought I’d have it up by now, but life has intervened. Hopefully later today!

Section on the Essence of the Sanctoral Cycle, Part 1

Since we looked last at the seasons of the Temporal Cycle, it’s time to head into the sanctoral cycle. This part is currently incomplete. There’s more that needs to be said here as you’ll see. I’ll indicate some of where we’re headed at the end.

———————————–

The Temporal cycle that celebrates in time the high points of the Creed and, in doing so, the main movements in the life of Jesus is mirrored by the Sanctoral cycle that celebrates Christ and his Church in and through the heroes of the faith. The Temporal cycle operates along two major axes: Incarnation and Redemption. That is, the seasons of Lent and Easter focus our attention upon how God acts to redeem us; the seasons of Advent and Christmas along with attendant fests involving Mary and John the Baptist focus us on God becoming human. The best way to think about the Sanctoral cycle is not as some other separate thing that gets plopped on top of the Temporal cycle to confuse it. Rather, the Sanctoral cycle is the logical next step from the Temporal cycle that flows from the life of Jesus and shows us the fusion of both Redemption and Incarnation as they intersect within human lives. The Sanctoral cycle shows us the promise and potential of humanity reconciled with God; it gives us vivid examples of redeemed humans who incarnated Christ in their very flesh to the wonder of the watching world.

Now, some people are a bit wary of the Sanctoral cycle. And that’s understandable. There’s a wide range of attitudes with in the Episcopal Church and within Anglicanism as a whole towards the heroes of the faith and how we decide to remember them in church. A lot of this has to do with the way that the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches honor these heroes and desires to—alternately—emulate, learn from, or reject what it is that they do. Some Episcopalians are fine with the Sanctoral cycle and are perfectly comfortable using the “s-word” (saints). Others are much more leery of it, and see the notion of saints as inherently troublesome and problematic. The prayer book and associated materials tries to respect the diversity of opinion yet still providing for liturgical celebration of these heroes. We’re not going to solve the difference of opinion here, but, instead, will try to use the principles of the prayer book to wrestle with the topic in a way that helps us touch the heart of it: the intersection of the dual mysteries of redemption and incarnation.

A Baptismal Ecclesiology: Where the Rubber Hits the Road

The best way to untangle this matter, it seems to me, is to cut to the heart of the matter. It starts with Baptism. One of the real achievements of our prayer book is its embrace of the sacrament of Baptism and the restoration of its place as one of the two great sacraments of the Church. You won’t spend very long around arguing Episcopalians without somebody tossing out the phrase “baptismal ecclesiology” or referring to “the Baptismal Covenant.” That’s as it should be, yet these phrases can seem a bit daunting to when you run across them the first few times.

What is “baptismal ecclesiology” and how does it matter?

Baptism joins us to Christ. Using the language of drowning, Paul speaks of us dying in the waters of Baptism with Jesus and rising from it sharing in his new risen life. This is the moment when we get plugged into the life of God. It can be seen as an individual and individualistic event—me and Jesus. And yet, that’s not how the New Testament or the Church have talked about it. It’s not just me and Jesus—it’s me and Jesus and everybody else who is likewise plugged into Jesus; it’s all of us who are connected by Christ into the life of God. That’s the heart of what the Church is: recognizing all those who are fellow travelers with us by virtue of Baptism. The Church is defined by Baptism. We fail to see the Church properly if we’re only looking at the clergy.  Or if we’re only looking at the people who decide to show up to our church on Sundays. A real, robust baptismal ecclesiology takes seriously that everyone who is, was, or will be baptized shares in a common bond, the union with Christ, without regard to church attendance or denominational lines. Furthermore, Paul’s insistence that baptismal life is a sharing in Christ’s risen life means that we don’t see the line between the living and the dead quite so starkly either.

I fear, despite all of our talk of a baptismal ecclesiology, that we tend to have a “parochial” view of the Church. And I mean that in two different senses of the word. I mean it in the word’s negative sense when “parochial” is used to mean short-sighted and narrow; I also mean it in the word’s most literal sense as it relates to the parish we go to on Sundays. We tend to think of “Church” as restricted to the people we see around us—and that’s a mistake. If we take Baptism seriously, we have to see Church not only as the people within our walls, but also the folks in the church down the street (even if we don’t agree with them on some things), and all the folks who didn’t actually make it to our church or another church, but also including the whole host of those who have gone before us and we see no longer. If the act of Baptism replaces our life, plugging us into the life of God in some fundamental, meaningful way—however we understand that—than the dead share the very same life that we do. We are all bound together into the energies of God. What we do with the dead, how we understand them and our relation to them finds focus liturgically in two days at the start of November: the Feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, historically shortened to All Souls. If we want to do the Sanctoral cycle right, we have to start with these two days and what they mean for us.

All Saints and All Souls

If we’re going to approach this topic from a prayer book perspective, than the place we have to begin is one of humility. We don’t have all the answers here, and that’s ok—we have enough to get by on. The first thing to note is that, despite what you might think, the Bible doesn’t spend very much time at all talking about death or what happens after we die. Christian tradition has filled in a whole lot of stuff here and often in some fairly imprecise, rather sketchy, and often down-right contradictory ways. Some of our most treasured notions about what happens when we die are more a product of cultural myths than anything rooted in Scripture and historic Christian teaching. Frankly, that’s part of what makes this discussion a bit tricky—we are touching on treasured notions. It’s certainly not my intention to harm anyone’s faith or pass judgment on what you were taught formally or not. As a result, I don’t plan on arguing against certain presentations of the Christian after-life, but rather want to stick closely to the words and intentions of the prayer book.

In the proper preface for the Commemoration of the Dead, we say, “to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended” (BCP, 382). That’s the foundation upon which everything else is built. Because of our faith in the resurrection and the promises of Baptism, death is a shift—not an end. From that fundamental recognition, the prayer book then makes reference to two general groups: the departed and the saints. Most often, these are placed in juxtaposition with one another. For instance, in the various forms of the Prayers of the People we routinely mention both the departed and the saints in close proximity: “Give to the departed eternal rest; Let light perpetual shine upon them. We praise you for your saints who have entered into joy; May we also come to share in your heavenly kingdom.” (Form III, BCP, 387) and “We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom.” (Form IV, BCP, 389) and “For all who have died in the communion of your Church, and those whose faith is known to you alone, that, with all the saints, they may have rest in that place where there is no pain or grief but life eternal, we pray to you, O Lord.” (Form V, BCP, 391). Too, we have Commons appointed for the Dead and for the Saints. But how do we interpret these two groups? Are they distinct or does one shade into the other?

I’d suggest that the prayer book is being deliberately vague on these points. The clearest statement that I can find that sheds light on the situation comes from the Prayers of the People in the Rite I Eucharist which reflects the language that we inherited from classical Anglicanism: “And we bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear, beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service; and to grant us grace so to follow the good examples of all thy saints, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom” (BCP, 330). This language affirms that the saints of God are partakers of the heavenly kingdom, and also envisions a process of growth that is not ended by physical death.  The pattern that is laid out here reflects a classical threefold division into the Church Militant—we the living, the Church Triumphant—those departed who currently enjoy the fullness of God’s presence, and the Church Expectant—those departed who do not yet experience the full presence of God but who shall as that process of growth is played out and as God’s promises in Baptism and Eucharist are fully delivered in the final consummation of all things.

Keeping these categories in mind, the Feast of All Saints celebrates the mighty deeds of God in and through the Church Triumphant; the Feast of All Souls recalls to us the Church Expectant who shall yet enjoy that final consummation.

Now we get to the tricky part: if we’re saying that we have two buckets—who goes where, and why?

Well, that’s complicated…

—————————————–

Ok—that’s it for today. From this point I’m heading back to Baptism in order to define the two major definitions for “saint” and talk about when and where we use them. I’m trying to decide if my usual spiel on patron saints, where that notion comes from and how/why it informs this practice is worth the space and is necessary for this kind of work. Part of the wrap-up of this section includes the difference between secular days of memorial/remembrance and the Christian celebration of saints’ days; the main difference, of course, is that the secular world celebrates the dead while we celebrate the living…

More later!

On the SCLM Meeting

The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) meeting is over now I’m home, and am beginning to be at the point to write about it. I find these meetings tiring, exciting, invigorating, and depressing—all at the same time… Everybody on the commission feels deeply about the importance of good liturgy and good music. We just frequently have differing opinions about what those are and how we go about nurturing them in the church.

The discussion of my proposal on HWHM occurred on Monday morning. There were some clear agreements around the table—most people didn’t like the word “almanac” finding it too old-fashioned. That didn’t bother me, I certainly wasn’t wedded to it. At a deeper level, though, most of the discussion was about theology even if the theology wasn’t overtly discussed or referenced. One person said that the proposal simply didn’t make sense; others saw it as an attempt to completely dismantle what had been accomplished in HWHM. I didn’t see it that way at all. What did become clear was that we had several different—some irreconcilable—understandings of sanctity and holiness. And, in arriving at that point, I think we accurately mirror one of the confusions in our church and one of the reasons why HWHM has been such a difficult body of work to complete satisfactorily.

I believe we did reach an agreement that will move the discussion forward in a new direction. In my previous post I said that I hoped to have certainty and specifics by this point; I don’t. We do have the basics of an agreement. However, there are a number of details to decide if it is to be workable and the last set was worked out in subcommittee work after the close of the meeting and has not yet been agreed to by the whole Standing Commission. Because this will represent a rather radical change, we have agreed not to discuss it until we have agreed on the principles and the main points lest an incomplete telling of an incomplete solution be misunderstood and blown out of proportion.

Trust me—it’s frustrating not being able to say more. However, it’s for the good of the work as a whole. I will, of course, say more when I can.

An Incomplete Update

I’m here in Milwaukee for the SCLM meeting, and we’ve just concluded the first day of our deliberations.

The main topic for the morning was my proposal on Holy Women, Holy Men. It was not accepted as drafted. However, we have come to a compromise that I think is workable; further meetings over the next couple of days will hash out some aspects of the compromise that are currently up in the air. I’d rather not comment on the nature of the compromise yet while so much remains provisional. Rather, I will have much more certainty and specifics on Wednesday and will post on it then.

A New Proposal for Holy Women, Holy Men

The title says “new” but that deserves a certain amount of qualification. If you’re a regular reader, you know that this plan is something that has been working in fits and starts since last September. In fact, much of the material that I’ve been producing over the last few months finds a place in it.

If you’re not a regular reader, let me clarify what’s going on…  I was appointed to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music following General Convention last year. In the run-up to Convention, I had published an article and a follow-up in the Living Church and some blog posts that were quite critical of “Holy Women, Holy Men.” Imagine my surprise when not only was I appointed to the SCLM, but was asked to co-chair the Calendar Subcommittee. . .

My conversations across the church have led me to the conviction that HWHM is not a suitable resource in its current state. At the heart of the problem is a fundamental confusion about the nature of a Calendar, commemorations, and sanctity. There is no coherent theology that holds the document together. Major arguments for the inclusion of certain individuals rest on their importance or significance; others are included because they were the “first” something. It became clear to me that the Calendar was being made to bear too much freight. It had become a place to record significant people as well as a place to record individuals of holiness as well as a place to include individuals who were representative of a particular lobby within the church as well as (increasingly) a place to record historical events that had some kind of meaning for the church.

At the first meeting of the triennium, I floated the idea of an Almanac that might be used alongside the Calendar in order to enable the Calendar to focus on being a sanctoral Calendar—a place to commemorate individuals who had displayed holiness and lives evocative of Christian maturity. Or, to tie it more closely to the current parlance, those individuals who have fulfilled their Baptismal Covenants in fulsome and inspiring ways. Keep the Calendar a sanctoral Calendar; use an Almanac to capture historical important events and people.

As we discussed it and thought about it more in the intervening months, the idea became better fleshed-out and more clear. Support for the idea grew, but also a curiosity grew in terms of what such a scheme would actually look like on the ground: it’s fine to discuss it in abstract, but what would it look like and how would it really work on a practical level? At the conclusion of the last SCLM meeting, Ruth Meyers asked me to draft something concrete so that we could have a real artifact on the table to discuss as a potential reworking of the HWHM material.

Yesterday, I posted to the extranet (our official document repository) three documents that represent a concrete vision of this potential scheme: a 21-page draft proposal, an example calendar, and an additional bit of writing that needs to get folded into the main document somewhere. These will be discussed at our meeting next week. Monday morning has been set aside for a discussion about whether to move forward with this option or to continue in the current format.

Here’s the main concept:

In order to give a more accurate rendering of its contents, the book as a whole will called the “Book of Optional Observances” (this, in part, as a reminder that all of these days are optional and that no ferial days have truly “disappeared”…) and will have three major sections:

  • Holy Women Holy Men: A Sanctoral Calendar. The Calendar and accompanying proper material offered here will contain fewer commemorations than currently stand. In the example draft that I have put together, it contains only 137 entries, and these were selected in large measure with regard to saints who have parish dedications across the church and that better reflect the diversity of the church (i.e., 15% more women, 17% more people of color, 6% more laity than the current balances). The two central criteria operative are Christian Discipleship and Local Observance. However, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the fact that this calendar is intended to be illustrative and not comprehensive. That is, we fully expect individuals, parishes, dioceses, and provinces to maintain their own calendars and to supplement this list with the names of saints that reflect their lively local experience of sanctity. As such, the Commons of Saints are highlighted as essential resources for these locally identified celebrations. In particular, their attention is directed to the Almanac (about which more in a moment) as a source of potential commemorations.
  • Praying the Seasons: A Temporal Calendar. Currently non-Sunday Scripture readings for the various Seasons are disconnected, particularly when it comes to Ordinary time. Grouping the whole Temporale here will enforce the shape of the Church Year and remind people that this remains a viable option should they chose to exercise it.
  • Dedicating our Lives: Propers for Various Occasions and an Almanac for the Episcopal Church. Here, the Votives/Propers for Various Occasions are likewise given an equal standing with the other two options. The twist is that this section will also contain an Almanac. Everyone from the previous drafts of HWHM who does not appear in the Calendar—and some who do appear in the Calendar—will be found here as a representative/example of a particular votive. Full propers will be retained with the suggestion that the particular prayer/collect be used to conclude the Prayers of the People when used votively. If a local community chooses to observe the entry as a sanctoral occasion (having consulted the sanctoral criteria and discerned a congruence with their local experience of sanctity), they are free to do so and the propers are easily at hand. The chief criteria for the Almanac are Significance and Memorability. This will enable us to recognize and remember those individuals, events, and movements that made the Episcopal Church what it is today and that will inspire us in the future without requiring the burden of either asserting or proving their sanctity. Additionally, should sufficient documentable local, regional, and church-wide commemoration grow up around figures in the Almanac, it’s entirely possible that they could be remembered in the Calendar as well.

Here’s the proposed preface.

———————————–

Proposed Preface to the Book of Optional Observances

A New Perspective

The work before you represents a new approach to on-going non-Sunday Christian formation and liturgical celebration within the Episcopal Church. In the process leading up to the creation of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, a Calendar Committee drafted a proposed Calendar for inclusion in that work. While it was not approved, a set of Eucharistic propers for the liturgical celebration of a saint was included. A Calendar Study committee was convened again in 1945 that finally produced the first official sanctoral calendar, approved in 1964. This material was supplemental to the Book of Common Prayer and was printed in a volume entitled Lesser Feasts and Fasts. The feasts pertained to the sanctoral celebrations; the fasts were the quarterly Ember Days and the provisions made for weekdays in Lent. Successive editions provided Eucharistic propers for a host of additional saints’ days and an increasing number of weekdays in the temporal calendar, partly in response to the growing custom of weekday Eucharists.

In 2003, under the direction of Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold—former chair of the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music and its Calendar Subcommittee—General Convention directed the Standing Commission to revise Lesser Feasts and Fasts “to reflect our increasing awareness of the importance of the ministry of all the people of God and of the cultural diversity of The Episcopal Church, of the wider Anglican Communion, of our ecumenical partners, and of our lively experience of sainthood in local communities.” Now, over a decade later and after much deliberation and no little contention, we offer a resource that reflects the wide variety of Anglican understandings of sanctity, of liturgy, and of our common mission in Christ rooted in Baptism as exemplified in our Baptismal Covenant.

Through the preliminary work of the committee in arriving at this point, General Convention authorized a calendar containing upward of 295 commemorations celebrating 340 named individuals. The Calendar contained in the work before you contains fewer commemorations and individuals—and yet this resource as a whole contains all of these prior events and people and more! For those who became accustomed to certain celebrations and came to know new saints of God through the later versions of Lesser Feasts and Fasts or the preliminary editions of Holy Women, Holy Men, rest assured that no one has been “de-sainted” even though their name may not appear within the Calendar on the following pages. Instead, the Calendar now contains fewer commemorations with the intention that local observances and local theologies of sanctity should take precedence over a centralized list of names pushed down from above by a church committee.

The Calendar as Illustrative rather than Comprehensive

In obedience to the directive from General Convention to be more sensitive to sanctity in all of its diversity, the first instinct of the Calendar Subcommittee was to add names—to demonstrate inclusivity through a comprehensive Calendar. No matter how many names were added, however, we could never put on enough names to communicate the true diversity of the people of God. Furthermore, there would always be worthy individuals whose names would be omitted due to accidents of fortune or history rather than a lack of sanctity.

A different perspective was to offer a more minimal Calendar deeply committed to its own insufficiency.  This Calendar does not contain all of the saints of the Episcopal Church. It only begins to contain the saints who inspire, delight, trouble, and confuse us. Rather than creating a Calendar that is comprehensive, this Calendar is merely illustrative. That is, it presents a few representative examples of dedicated Christians throughout history who have invited us deeper into the life of God through their own witness. They illuminate different facets of Christian maturity to spur us on to an adult faith in the Risen Christ and the life of the Spirit he offers. As illustrations, they mirror the myriad virtues of Christ in order that, in their examples, we might recognize those same virtues and features of holiness in people closer to our own times and stations and neighborhoods. And, seeing them in those around us, we may be more able to cultivate these virtues and forms of holiness—through grace—as we strive to imitate Christ as well.

New in this resource is an Almanac for the Episcopal Church. While the purpose of the Calendar is to lift up individuals whom the Church should honor and imitate for their sanctity and their demonstration of the contours of a fully mature Christian faith, the Almanac’s purpose—sometimes complementary to the Calendar, sometimes overlapping—is to identify the significant and memorable individuals, events, and movements who have made the Episcopal Church what it is today. Some of them are well known; some of them are not. Some of them are Episcopalians; more of them are not. Nevertheless, through their leadership, thinking, writing, singing, praying, caring and working they have constructed the scaffolding through which this Church was built and will continue to grow. The Calendar celebrates sanctity—the end goal of a sacramental life of discipleship; the Almanac celebrates importance and significance. As the Calendar is intentionally illustrative, the Almanac contains some who may well fit both definitions. Indeed, as communities and parishes and dioceses consider their local understanding of sanctity, the Almanac may be a worthy first stop in exploring who beyond the Calendar may inspire you in your baptismal journeys.

Exhortation to Local Observance

Rather than attempting to mandate where holiness can be seen, this perspective liberates the Church to search for holiness both in its history and in its midst. In order to live into the potential of this approach, we exhort individuals, parishes, missions, and diocese to construct calendars of commemorations, using the Calendar contained here as a starting place. There are saints at every level of our lives and we diminish by a little the light of Christ in our world where they are not celebrated. The criteria for inclusion in the Calendar are presented on page XX. We invite you to read through the names, lives, and observances in this volume’s Almanac, and in other resources whether current or historical like Butler’s Lives of the Saints or Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, and in the lines scribed on the walls of your churches and the sidewalks of your streets to find narratives of witness that aid you in living out your baptismal vows. Create, circulate, and deliberate calendars and narratives that speak to the holiness of a transcendent God who blesses our lives in imminence.

In providing a minimal Calendar, we are offering a sign of trust in local communities. We recognize that there are a wide variety of understandings of sanctity across the Episcopal Church. Expecting them to be identical from the mountains of Honduras to the hills of Virginia to the high plains of Wyoming is unrealistic and does a discredit to the hardy faith that sustains lives in these regions and beyond. Local communities are thereby given a broader degree of freedom to discern who they identify as saints and how they perceive these individuals to be impacting their daily lives of faith. We pray that this approach will lead to the identification of a wider array of indigenous saints—some of whom should be shared more broadly across the church, and some of whom should remain local observances united to their own particular place and home.

Expanding Liturgical Horizons

This resource places a new focus upon some liturgical materials that have been long been part of the Christian tradition and that have been included in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer since its adoption: propers for Various Occasions. Growing out of the medieval tradition of votive masses, the propers for Various Occasions lift up particular aspects of the Christian life and witness that deserve to be celebrated, yet not at the expense of our Sunday celebrations of the Resurrection. Recapturing the use of these liturgical compositions can help local communities express liturgically their joys and struggles in solidarity with those around them. Within this resource, the Almanac of people and events significant to the Episcopal Church has been linked to many of these Various Occasions, providing a natural and ready opportunity for exploring these liturgies. It is our hope that, having been exposed to them in this context, they will more naturally and easily spring to mind when their use is warranted.

Expanding Formative Horizons

In the past Lesser Feasts and Fasts was primarily understood as a book for non-Sunday Eucharistic celebrations. However, within the past decade, social media and an evolving array of digital devotional materials have revealed that this work and its subsequent formulations have an important role in shaping personal as well as communal devotion. These aren’t just collections of liturgies—these resources help modern Episcopalians learn about themselves, their faith communities, and the history of the wider Church. In recognition of this reality, attention has been given (particularly within the Almanac) to presenting a broader narrative that communicates how some of these events and individuals are linked together, and how they make the Episcopal Church who we are today.

Entries in both the Calendar and the Almanac have been associated with a variety of “tags.” These tags help provide an instant context for the individuals, movements, or events being remembered. Too, they create relationships across the material, highlighting common themes or connections between apparently disparate people. The tags may relate to gender, ethnicity, region of impact, or identify some of the virtues and charisms that may be seen in them. In digital editions of this resource, hyperlinking will allow you to explore across the Calendar and Almanac by means of the commonalities.

In addition, digital tools have given a broader prominence to the Daily Office leading to more questions concerning how Lesser Feasts are represented in these services. In order to clarify the intersection of this resource with the Daily Office, direction will be provided at the head of each section explaining its proper use.

The Shape of the Work

In order to accomplish the goals outlined above, this resource contains three major parts. The first part is “Holy Women, Holy Men: A Sanctoral Calendar” that contains the calendar of observances and which provides commons for the celebration of various kinds of locally identified saints as well. The second part is “Praying the Seasons: A Temporal Calendar” that provides Scripture lessons, collects—where appropriate—and other Eucharistic propers for celebrating weekdays within the Church’s liturgical seasons. The third part is “Dedicating our Lives: Various Occasions and an Almanac for the Episcopal Church” that contains the propers composed for Various Occasions and the Almanac that connects these Occasions to people, events, and movements that have shaped the Episcopal Church.

————————————-

Also, here’s the head of the general rubrics on the Church Calendar:

————————————-

Optional Observances and the Calendar

In the section entitled “Concerning the Service of the Church,” the Book of Common Prayer clarifies the normative services of the Episcopal Church:

The Holy Eucharist is the principal act of Christian worship on the Lord’s Day and other major Feasts, and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, as set forth in this book, are the regular services appointed for public worship in the Church. (BCP, 13)

Eucharistic propers (collects, Scripture readings, and proper preface) are provided in the Book of Common Prayer for the days when the Eucharist is the principal service.  The Calendar section at the front of the prayer book identifies these Eucharistic feasts by placing them into three categories, ranked by priority: Principal Feasts, Sundays, and Holy Days. Normatively, on all other days, Morning and Evening Prayer are the Church’s official public services. However, as celebration of the Eucharist has become more frequent, many parishes now offer weekday Eucharists on days for which the prayer book does not assign propers.

The prayer book provides a range of six possible options for the celebration of the Eucharist on these ferial or non-feast days. These options are:

  1. To celebrate a Major Feast that has fallen elsewhere in the week as provided in the prayer book,
  2. To celebrate a Lesser Feast as a Day of Optional Observance appointed in the Church’s Calendar,
  3. To celebrate a Lesser Feast as a Day of Optional Observance not appointed in the Church’s Calendar by using the Commons of Saints,
  4. To celebrate the season by using the propers of the preceding Sunday,
  5. To celebrate the season by using the propers appointed for a day in the given week of the season, and
  6. To celebrate an occasion provided for in the propers for “Various Occasions.”

To facilitate the use of these authorized options, this resource contains the propers for fixed Holy Days, Commons of Saints, and Various Occasions given in the prayer book and those authorized since the adoption of the prayer book, and propers for Days of Optional Observance recognized for Church-wide use but not included within the prayer book. The propers in this resource are grouped into three sections by type for the sanctoral cycle, the temporal cycle, and various occasions.

Directions for the appropriate use of the various kinds of propers are provided at the head of each section, but here are some general guides for use:

  • These propers are not to be used on any day for which the prayer book has appointed propers.
  • If a Major Feast that falls in the week will not be celebrated with a Eucharist on its indicated day, it is most appropriate that a midweek service will observe the Major Feast in order to retain the prayer book’s emphasis on the significance of these occasions.
  • “Feasts appointed on fixed days in the Calendar are not observed on the days of Holy Week or of Easter Week” nor should propers for Various Occasions be used within this period (BCP, 18).
  • In keeping with ancient tradition, the observance of Lenten weekdays ordinarily takes precedence over Various Occasions or Lesser Feasts occurring during this season.
  • Since the triumphs of the saints are a continuation and manifestation of the Paschal victory of Christ, the celebration of saints’ days is particularly appropriate during the Easter season.

Optional Observances and the Daily Office

The propers in this resource are provided for use in the Eucharist; specific directions on whether or how they may be used in the Daily Office are described at the head of each section.

As a rule, the Scripture readings appointed for optional observances are not to be substituted for the Daily Office Lectionary given in the Book of Common Prayer. Since the observation of a Lesser Feast would make that celebration’s collect the “Collect of the Day,” the collect of a Lesser Feast may be used as the “Collect of the Day” In the Office whether a Eucharist for that observance is being locally celebrated or not. Since the Daily Office operates primarily within the movement of the temporal Cycle, the collect of the preceding Sunday or Principal Feast may be prayed after a sanctoral “Collect of the Day” in order to maintain this liturgical connection. The collect for a Various Occasion should not replace or displace the Collect of the Day but may follow that Collect or the conclusion of the Office at the discretion of the officiant.

———————–

I want to draw attention to some of the items towards the end of the preface. I see this proposal representing three major advances beyond HWHM here. First, it puts the sanctoral Calendar on a more solid theological footing focusing on sanctity. Second, it clarifies the status of the three major options for celebrating a non-Sunday Eucharist. Third, it recognizes how HWHM is currently being used in the wild. I see it more online and in social media than in physical churches. This proposal takes this devotional use seriously and provides an enhanced framework for utilizing it to learn both church history and be introduced to the primary saints recognized by our tradition.

I truly believe that this proposal offers a win-win situation. For those who value the diversity currently present in HWHM, all of it has been retained. For those concerned about the sanctity of those on the sanctoral Calendar, a smaller, more carefully vetted list will adhere to the published criteria. For those concerned with a loss of ferial days, the resource as a whole better communicates the optional character of all of the Lesser Feasts and clarifies the relationships between the various options. I think this proposal offers the church a better-rounded, more useful resource that displays a more coherent implicit theology of sanctity and offers greater sensitivity concerning how it will actually be used.

Let me know what you think . . .

A Point of Clarification: Some people have asked to see the names on the actual Calendar. My response is to warn you that we’re at least four major hurdles away from that point.

  • The first hurdle is for the SCLM to adopt this proposal. This is by no means a fore-gone conclusion and I expect that there will be a certain amount of resistance to it or at least to some aspects of it.
  • The second hurdle will involve hashing out the new criteria for the Calendar.
  • The third hurdle would be a concomitant hashing out of criteria for the Almanac.
  • It’s not until the fourth hurdle that we can actually start naming names for the Calendar.
  • And again for the Almanac…

While I do have an example list it is in no way official or even semi-solid from an official point of view. So—that’s too much uncertainty for me to produce any such list at the present time; it would be both premature and presumptive.

Sanctoral Dedications of Episcopal Parishes

Dr. Kirk Hadaway, official numbers person for the Episcopal Church, was kind enough to provide me with a list of every single Episcopal parish in the world as of a few years ago. I have now gone through that list with an eye to discovering to whom our various churches are dedicated with a particular interest in sanctoral dedications. That is, which saints are churches dedicated to? What patterns of dedication do we see? Specifically, what is the breakdown between red-letter saint dedications and black-letter (i.e., those directly in the purview of HWHM and the Calendar Subcommittee), and what do those tell us about established local observance of saints across the Episcopal Church?

Here are some of my findings.

The starting list of 7,204 names displays quite a range of naming possibilities. Broadly speaking, Episcopal parishes take a name either from:

  • a saint to whom they are dedicated,
  • a feast of the (temporal cycle of the) liturgical year,
  • a person of the Trinity,
  • a theological concept, or
  • their location

Of these options, there are a total of 4,773 dedications of parishes to saints. The number of parishes dedicated to saints is slightly smaller than this as some parishes are dedicated to two saints and there are a handful that are dedicated to three saints.

Most of these sanctoral dedications are fairly straight-forward. It should be noted at this point, however, that there were a few difficulties in the overlap of names. Because most saints are referred to in the list (and in church dedications) by a single name, there is potential confusion between individuals who share a common name. The most ambiguity occurs in the following cases:

  • John: these churches could be dedicated to
    • John, the Apostle and Evangelist
    • John the Baptizer
    • John the Divine, author of Revelation (who may or may not be the same as John the Apostle)
  • James: these churches could be dedicated to
    • James the Greater, Apostle
    • James the Less, Apostle
    • James of Jerusalem (the Just), brother of our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Augustine: these churches could be dedicated to
    • Augustine of Hippo
    • Augustine of Canterbury
  • Ant(h)ony: these churches could be dedicated to
    • Antony of Egypt
    • Anthony of Padua
  • Gregory
    • Gregory the Great of Rome
    • Gregory of Nyssa
    • Gregory the Illuminator
    • Gregory Nazianzus

I realized only in the course of this analysis that Elizabeth could refer (primarily) either to Elizabeth of Hungary or to Elizabeth, the Mother of John the Baptizer. Those with qualifiers indicated “Hungary” but this would require further scrutiny to clarify the true state.

I did research a number of these by checking parish websites; in some cases I could tell which saint was indicated, in others it was inconclusive. (Pro tip: if your church is dedicated to a saint, say a little bit about them on your parish website!) If I could not tell, I went with the more common which is the first saint of the group named above.

Of these 4,773 dedications, 3,596 are dedicated to saints having red-letter days (75.3%). Of the red-letter saints, these are the ten most popular:

Paul of Tarsus, Apostle 482
John, Apostle and Evangelist 435
Andrew, Apostle 284
James the Greater, Apostle 265
Luke, Evangelist 248
All Saints 233
Mark, the Evangelist 231
Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ 211
Simon Peter (Cephas), Apostle 208
Stephen, Deacon and Martyr 170

These top ten represent (in turn) 76.9% of the red-letter sanctoral dedications and therefore 57.9% of all sanctoral dedications in the Episcopal Church.

Of the 1,177 black-letter dedications, these are the top ten:

Francis of Assisi, Friar, 1226 92
George, Soldier and Martyr, c. 304 90
Alban, First Martyr of Britain, c. 304 82
David, Bishop of Menevia, Wales, c. 544 62
Anne, Parent of the Blessed Virgin Mary 61
Christopher, Martyr at Antioch, c. 304 59
Timothy, Companion of Saint Paul 59
Martin, Bishop of Tours, 397 57
Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, and Theologian, 430 43
All Angels 35

If “All Angels” is removed as it connects to a red-letter day, the next entries would be a tie: Margaret, Queen of Scotland, and Patrick, Bishop and Missionary of Ireland, both at 32. The top ten list here represent 54.4% of the black-letter dedications.

Given the red-letter vs. black-letter balance and the overwhelming presence of male saints in the red-letter category, it’s no surprise that the overall gender balance shows massive disparities. 4,344 dedications are to male saints (91%); 429 are to female saints (9%). Of the female saints having dedications, here are the top ten:

Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ 211
Anne, Parent of the Blessed Virgin Mary 61
Margaret, Queen of Scotland, 1093 32
Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1231 31
Mary Magdalene 16
Martha of Bethany 11
Agnes, Martyr at Rome, 304 10
Clare, Abbess at Assisi, 1253 8
Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr, c. 305 6
Monnica, Mother of Augustine of Hippo, 387 6

The breakdown between clergy and lay saints is not as disparate as one might expect, even when holding with Church tradition and identifying all twelve Apostles as bishops. 4,007 dedications are to bishops/priests/deacons/religious (83.9%); 766 are to laity (16.1%). Here are the top 10 lay dedications:

Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ 211
George, Soldier and Martyr, c. 304 90
Alban, First Martyr of Britain, c. 304 82
Anne, Parent of the Blessed Virgin Mary 61
Christopher, Martyr at Antioch, c. 304 59
John the Baptizer 55
Joseph, Adoptive Father of Jesus Christ 36
Margaret, Queen of Scotland, 1093 32
Elizabeth, Princess of Hungary, 1231 31
Mary Magdalene 16

Shifting gears slightly, when we look at the saints to whom dedications are given, 133 saints have dedications. Of these, there are 107 black-letter saints with dedications.

Of these 107, 37 saints with a total of 173 dedications do not appear in HWHM. These are the top ten saints having dedications but not formally appearing within the Calendar:

Christopher, Martyr at Antioch, c. 304 59
Gabriel, Archangel 19
John the Divine, c. 90 11
Raphael the Archangel 9
Edward the Confessor, 1066* 9
Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr, c. 305 6
Giles of Provence, Hermit, c.710 5
Helena, Protector of the Holy Places, 330 5
Anthony of Padua, priest and doctor of the Church 5
Charles Stuart, King and Martyr, 1649 4

* There’s likely some confusion here between the two sainted King Edwards of England, Edward the Confessor and Edward the Martyr. However, there were a total of 10 between the two of them.

It’s worth nothing that up until the introduction of HWHM, this list would have been headed by Saint George with 90.

When we look at the breakdown across time we see an interesting pattern. Again, when looking at the full set, the skew towards the first century and the red-letter apostolic saints is unmistakable:

CenturyParishDedAllHere’s the supporting data:

Century Parishes
1 3400
2 25
3 36
4 355
5 82
6 98
7 58
8 24
9 10
10 20
11 42
12 24
13 142
14 5
15 2
16 4
17 6
18 0
19 0
20 0

This is the graph and data when red-letter saints are removed:

CenturyParishDedBlack

Century Parishes
1 161
2 25
3 36
4 355
5 82
6 98
7 58
8 24
9 10
10 20
11 42
12 24
13 142
14 5
15 2
16 4
17 6
18 0
19 0
20 0

The spike in the 13th century is primarily due to Francis of Assisi (92 dedications) and Elizabeth of Hungary (31 dedications) [but see the caveat above on the correct identification of dedications to “Elizabeth”].

Thus, the most recent saints to receive dedications are the three in the 17th century, Charles Stuart, King and Martyr (4 dedications), William Laud (1 dedication), and Rose of Lima (1 dedication).

Of the new prospective saints introduced with HWHM, only four have dedications:

George, Soldier and Martyr, c. 304 90
Cecilia, Martyr at Rome, c. 280 1
Rosa de Lima, 1617, Witness to the Faith in South America 1
Lucy (Lucia), Martyr at Syracuse, 304 1

Again, these figures indicate a certain lack of attention to the local identification and observance of saints in the construction of HWHM.

While there is more data that can be teased out of this material, let me leave you with one final data set. This chart displays the dedications for parishes with Spanish titles representing not only Hispanic parishes in the US but also our dioceses in Central and South America:

MaryBVM 33
PaulAp 18
Joseph 13
PeterAp 12
MichaelArchangel 10
JohnAp 9
FrancisAssisi 9
JohnBaptist 8
Stephen 7
MatthewAp 7
AllSaints 7
LukeAp 7

The first include four dedications to the Virgin of Guadalupe/of the Americas, three dedications to Our Lady of Supaya, two dedications to Our Lady of Carmel, one to Our Lady of the Angels, one to Our Lady of the Forsaken, and one to Our Lady of Walsingham. Again, if we want to recognize local observance, we would do well to consider these dedications as we consider outreach into non-Anglo demographics.

While there were dedications where the title indicated primary languages of French, Korean, Japanese, and Lakota, the French mirrored the English, and the others did not rise to the level of being statistically significant.

HWHM Trial Balloon

I’ve been told that one of the problems with my approach to HWHM is that I haven’t paid sufficient attention to 2003-A100, the GC Resolution that authorized the project. Here it is for your reading pleasure:

Resolved, That the 74th General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to undertake a revision of Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2000, to reflect our increasing awareness of the importance of the ministry of all the people of God and of the cultural diversity of The Episcopal Church, of the wider Anglican Communion, of our ecumenical partners, and of our lively experience of sainthood in local communities; and be it further

Resolved, That the SCLM produce a study of the significance of that experience of local sainthood in encouraging the living out of baptism; and be it further

Resolved, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $20,000 for implementation of this resolution.

General Convention, Journal of the General Convention of…The Episcopal Church, Minneapolis, 2003 (New York: General Convention, 2004), p. 593.

I have now given this resolution a certain amount of attention. (Whether it’s been sufficient is not for me to say…)

In particular, I want to draw your attention to one phrase of the first Resolve clause: “…and of our lively experience of sainthood in local communities” and to the second Resolve clause in its entirety with a special focus on this phrase: “experience of local sainthood in encouraging the living out of baptism.”

Let me tackle the second Resolve first and answer the question that naturally proceeds from it. No—this study mandated by GC on the significance of the local experience of sainthood was never produced. What I’ve learned since being on the Standing Commission is that not everything mandated by GC gets accomplished. Sometimes it’s because they’ve offered a good idea that is simply not possible financially or for other reasons. The poster child for this is the requirement that everything Convention or its underlying bodies does or produces must be translated into both Spanish and French. That’s a great idea and recognizes the breadth of our church—but no funding is provided to do it. As a result things get translated slowly and occasionally if at all. And, sometimes, there are things resolved that fall off the radar and are forgotten. And, sometimes, there are things resolved that specifically get forgotten. I don’t know where this study falls, but it never occurred.

Nevertheless, between the second Resolve and the phase on “local communities” in the first, it seems that “local” is a very important part of what HWHM ought to be about! To honor the intention of the resolution, the collection needs to speak to this point in a compelling fashion.

What does “local” mean here? I think it’s ambiguous and that there are two possible and not exclusive answers that make sense in light of the rest of it. The first is that we need to trust local communities in their identification of sanctity in local people. The second is that we need to trust local communities in their identification of sanctity as it makes sense to them in their location, whether the individual honored is “local” or not.

For instance, if I were to suggest to a classic Virginia clergyman that he celebrate a feast for a little statue of the BVM called the Virgin of Supaya, he’d roll his eyes and mutter. And he’d be perfectly right in doing so based on the history and theology of his locale. If, however, I suggested to the clergy who serve the two Episcopal churches in the Diocese of Honduras named after the Virgin of Supaya that they not celebrate it,  they’d equally roll their eyes and mutter—based on their local theology. (She’s the patron of Honduras.)

Where is this local in HWHM? . . . What if—and I’m going out on a limb here—what if HWHM represents (no doubt, unintentionally) a distrust of local discernment by imposing in a top-down fashion such a large number of commemorations that don’t connect to local environments? In its attempt to be inclusive of people from a variety of locales and situations, has it actually created a centralized hegemonic artifact that might suppress rather than enhance local practice?

In order to celebrate the local, then, a reduced sanctoral calendar might be favorable especially if it were to explicitly say that the people included are only a tiny subset of the full number of the saints of God and are examples to spur local thought. A healthy recommendation of a variety of sanctoral texts from a variety of perspectives—Foxe, Butler, etc.—and a general uplifting of the Commons of Saints might do a far better job of promoting a “lively experience of sainthood in local communities” then a book imposed from on high filled with people and situations that don’t connect to the local environment.

Too, the incorporation of a parallel Almanac in the same volume could likewise offer suggestions for celebration beyond the official Calendar.

Thoughts?